CAD Shootout 1999 - From My Sneakers
BY: Matt Koons

This article will give others a glimpse of the experience of being part of the AllPlan team in the 1999 CAD Shootout held in Los Angeles.


I'll give it to you in brief chronological order, if you want the full story you can jump to it from there.

Day 1, Friday, May 21st 1999.
                    Fly into LA, meet everyone and setup a temporary computer lab.
Day 2, Saturday, May 22nd 1999.
                    Deal with hardware conflicts, map out a game plan.
Day 3, Sunday, May 23rd 1999.
                    Refine the game plan, begin creating the symbols, file sets, and materials. Practice run #1.
Day 4, Monday, May 24th 1999.
                    Discuss our practice run #1, update the game plan, and try Practice run #2.
Day 5, Tuesday, May 25th 1999.
                    Last day before the competition. Run over to the Convention Center to setup & test hardware.
Day 6, Wednesday, May 26th 1999.
                    The competition. Time just vaporizes.
Day 7, Thursday, May 27th 1999.
                   Announcement of the Shootout winners. Wander around the exhibits


For more on Allplan and images of the competition drawings see


Day 1, Friday, May 21st 1999.
Pack my bags, double check everything, and get my nervous butt to the airport. Shuttle bus drivers are "Pony Express Pilots" upgraded from ponies to buses. They know the territory and the routes, you just sit back., and try to enjoy the ride. They'll figure out a way to get you there on time, even if it means driving around another city to do it. Amazing.      Fly to LA , grab a car, drive to find the hotel that's suppose to be close to the Convention Center. Oh yea it's close alright. We have rooms in an area that was the testing site for the dumb bombs. What happened to this place? It's a war zone waiting, no . . begging to be cleaned up. At least the hotel is clean and reasonably safe.    We meet up with everyone there. I get to see dynamic forms assigned to the e-mail addresses! Ivan, Tobias, and later Gary. Check-in, and divvy up the rooms. One of them will be converted into a computer lab with 4 stations and my laptop so it better have space. We are setting up a command center office that is targeting the Shootout.
Encounter Restaurant
Day 2, Saturday, May 22nd 1999.
Waking up I have to slowly peak out the curtain. Did we really end up in a war zone or was that my stale air illusion yesterday?   Yep, no roses here! We are right in the middle of a foreign war zone. Better stay put and see what's down stairs for their "includes breakfast" deal.   Everyone meets at the new lab (Richard got a 2 room suite) at around 9:00 am to map out strategies and get acquainted. Tobias and Ivan tackle the dual-pentium & graphics card setup, Richard & I go over outlines and standards for the Shootout. By 12:00 noon things are not going so smoothly. The ELSA graphics card is giving us trouble within the dual-pentium III station, and ALLPLAN v15. We need to talk to someone at ELSA and get information/answers. The other machine is running the new Synergy II card with 32 mb just fine. Gary Georges shows up and now the discussions begin again. A lot of speculation and guessing from last year's event in comparison to this year's info. Richard & Ivan have done this before. The rest of us have no idea what to expect. Naming conventions, colors to use, symbols to have ready, sequence of construction, what has to happen. 3 hours breaks down very quickly to 0 if you run into any type of glitch on the floor. Backup scenarios are created.

It's like a Shuttle launch. Create an extensive check list, know who the pilots will be, pilots will have specific expertise of the program which places them to a specific task. It's a team event, not individual showmanship. We need to work better than clockwork. My laptop is used for uplinks to the internet. So I had to figure out the damn dial up sequence using my calling card number, along with everyone else who wanted to get their e-mail. I thought everyone had a laptop! The stations we have for the Shootout are work horses, not secretaries. The group works on game plans until about midnight. There's an abandoned 4 level parking garage turned into a huge dance club going full force across a vacant block of debris.


Day 3, Sunday, May 23rd 1999.
Waking up I have to slowly peak out the curtain. Did we really end up in a war zone or was that my stale air illusion yesterday? Yep, still no roses! Again everyone meets at the Command Lab by 9:00 am.
     Today we move away from the hardware issues and focus on the event. Naming conventions are established, materials, colors, line weights, filesets, smart symbols, and shortcut keys are made. Since the stations will be sharing the work over a network we have to create 2 filesets that use the same files so both people can work simultaneously. It becomes a Power User's Group, and everyone is rapidly talking about what they know about the program. Someone mentions lightly that this should be a camp once a year, and all agree. Manuals can only say so much before you fall asleep, but a live demo from someone is really the way to go. Everyone calls it quits around midnight. Though back at my room I fire up the laptop and practice some more until 1:00, check my e-mail, catch the news. It's hard to sleep.
Day 4, Monday, May 24th 1999.
Today is practice run #1 day. Ivan gives a scenario with details about the site, client's goals, and other criteria. Let the clock begin. Immediately I feel nervous, high strung, and impatient when anything doesn't work right the first time. We have to know this stuff cold, and I don't. The digital terrain modeler gives me my first panic attack. When the clock is moving and you're stuck with a problem, it seems easier if you just exploded, had someone wipe up the mess, replace you and continue on. Otherwise I sit there peculating steam and no results. Not a happy place to be.
     The practice run is over and we feel we really did well. The building is Ok, nothing to publish, but for a first run it's a good start. Everyone joins in to discuss plus & minuses of the practice run. The Shootout begins to take shape for the rookies. This will be intense! There is going to be a whole lot of sweating going on at the competition, we have to be surgeons, not sturgeons.
     I have to venture out into the unknown waste land and deliver a floppy to Geoffery Langdon at the convention center. Gary gives me the route and off I go. I like to explore new & strange worlds, but this is LA. It's good to get a glimpse of the competition room, but that doesn't mean my nerves will be any better for it. On the way back I detour to find a computer store. My laptop has an older net card, and it needs to have a 10/100 in order to plug into the hub at the hotel. Word of advice, never rely on buying
computer parts at the last minute in a new town! I should have gotten the card before leaving, but I thought it's LA, there will be plenty of places to shop in LA. NOT! Out of the entire downtown area I found 1 hooky 2 bit computer store selling last years supplies. Going back to the hotel I realize that my only choice now is "sneaker net", because I didn't bring the right cable for a vulcan file transfer among the machines.
Day 5, Tuesday, May 25th 1999.
    Today is practice run #2 day, and our final day to get organized. Later this evening we have to check in at the convention center to hook up the stations for a dry run. Check the resolution and colors, that sort of thing. I have to download a current version of Cosmos in order to show our VRML.
     Practice run # 2 begins. Tobias comes up with a doozy of a scenario. This time we go thru the whole process non-stop, including the job of making perspectives, plans, and animation for the slide show. I have to make adjustments to the Flash movie for different screen resolutions, but that's easy to update. Our results are better than yesterday, and the renderings look good. Our building is really something for a 3 hour run. 
    By 4:00 pm we pack up the stations that will be used for the competition and haul them over to the convention center for a hardware test and dry run onto the big screen. Note the resolution and color on the big screen. Pack up the stations and haul them back to the room. ArchiCAD is having an open party, but who has time for that? We opt for a good dinner and try to relax before tomorrow.


Day 6, Wednesday, May 26th 1999.
Ok, This is it . . . time to go to the show. The competition begins at 10:00 am and we need to setup the stations again. Everyone is at the convention center by 8:30 am, lucky for me there's a Star Bucks in the convention center. Excellent! 9:00 am, back to the competition room to settle in, if that's really possible at this point. We meet everyone from the other teams and most are here for the first time. By 9:30 people start grabbing seats, and I try to get some pictures while I can. From 10:00 on until we drop out of warp speed at around 1:30 we are busting our chops trying to get a building with plans together AND present it. You are in a vacuum where tiny glitches have big consequences. Every few minutes your work is plastered onto the big screen to show the audience your progress, or not. Everything you do is picked at and noted for what ever the reason. No time to ponder, just build it.
     When it's all over & done with I can't wait to get out of there. Bathrooms come to mind, then the food court, then a bar. I get a quick picture of our team. I wanted to get pictures of the audience during the competition, but how was I to do that?

It's over, and we did it. I'm really glad to have been a part of this and be able to work with Ivan, Gary, Tobias, and Richard. It's really something to pull people out of the blue and throw them together into a team and see what they can do. I thought we worked very well together and learned an awful lot about the program.
    Ivan needs to get to the airport. Gary suggest we have dinner out there at the old control tower before Ivan catches his flight. It's a great location for watching jets. The restaurant is called "Encounters", with a spacey 60's pop theme. (The star ship enterprise meets psychedelics). All we can do is talk about the competition and speculate how we did on the score cards. Afterwards, Ivan catches his plane, Gary drives home to the beach, and Tobias, Richard and myself make our way back to the bomb shelter.
Day 7, Thursday, May 27th 1999.
   The pressure is gone, and after 4:00 pm so are we. I can't wait to get back to a normal life in Sonoma.  We pack up, and check out as early as we can. Tobias is catching a flight around 3:00 and we want to roam the exhibits to catch the new toys. Awards are being presented today, so Richard and I will stick around for that. The showroom floor is flooded with new Silicon Graphics 320 stations including the 17" flat LCD monitors. I get a chance to open one up and really look at all of their features. It's very impressive. One can only hope.
    The awards are given. Allplan got squat, and ended up 4th overall which is what they got last year. Richard and I are both stunned, angry, and dishearten by the results. We know we did better, but who really knows what influences judges to think.
People who use ALLPLAN know the power of the program and it's ability. There's always next year.
The 1999 Team
See Samples at: Shattered-image
See competition scores, etc: Architectural 3D CAD Shootout